One of the tasks in our online ’24 Festive Tasks’ game was:
Create a book wish list for one of your favorite book characters, or pick 3 books for that character to receive from St. Nick.
The task sounded fun but I couldn’t think of a character to do it for. As soon as my wife suggested Catherine Morland, the young heroine of Jane Austen’s ‘Northanger Abbey’ I knew she was perfect for it.
I’ve picked four books I think Catherine might like. She’s not one for deep reflection but she does love a good story with a bit of a scare in it or a bit of a scandal.
‘Carmilla’ is mild by today’s standards but I think it would have had Catherine hiding under the bedcovers. I think she could easily imagine herself as Laura, living with her father in an old castle deep in the Styrian woods and encountering the mysterious, vampiric Carmilla. ‘Carmilla’ was published in 1872 so it predates Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ by more than twenty years. Like Stoker, Le Fanu was an Irishman. What is it with the Irish and vampires?
‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’ is a short but scary story. Catherine might have had to hold Henry’s hand while reading this. It was published in 1839 and even though it was written by an American, Catherine would have found it easy reading. I think would it would appeal to her ghoulish dread. It’s got a haunted house, a cursed family, madness, entombment and a big storm. What’s not to like?
‘The Woman In White’, published in 1859, is a bit more complicated than the first two books. Still, if Catherine had read it when it was first published,, she, like the narrator, would have been in her sixties and perhaps better able to deal with the text. I’d like to think that this book would help her develop a taste for mysteries. I think she’d like the setting (Blackwater Park is such a great name for a threatening house) and would hiss at the evil Count Fosco and be rooting for the ill-treated Laura to get her identity back.
‘Rebecca’ was published more than a century after the events in ‘Northanger Abbey’ but I think Catherine would have liked it if it had been available to her.
I think she’d have identified with Rebecca’s humble origins, would have thrilled to the attentions of the charismatic Maxim de Winter and have shivered as she understood the threat that Rebecca faced.